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Fixed Broadband and Mobile Convergence May Boost Consumer Value

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021 (11:11 am) - Score 1,344
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A new Assembly Research study of several countries, which was commissioned by Liberty Global (Virgin Media) and Telefonica (O2), has found that 60% of broadband customers benefit from faster speeds, higher quality connectivity and a greater range of products in markets where fixed and mobile networks have converged.

Admittedly the research that follows should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt because it feeds into the vested interests of the commissioning parties, which are currently in the middle of trying to get their proposed £31bn mega merger in the UK approved by an inherently sceptical Competition and Markets Authority (here).

In keeping with the above, Assembly Research has been tasked with examining how converged fixed and mobile markets fair in other markets where FMC has occurred, such as France, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Interestingly, some of the benefits that get associated with this include better coverage of 4G mobile services and wider availability of faster broadband networks, even though it could be argued that much of this may have occurred regardless.

On the other hand O2 and Virgin Media have already indicated that their decision to merge would result a joint plan to invest as much as £10bn to improve the UK’s broadband network and services over the next 5 years, which among other things could include an expansion of the operator’s “full fibreFTTP network to another 8 million premises (here). But we’d heard talk of this long before the merger was unveiled and previously convergence wasn’t really part of that conversation.

FMC is also claimed to have “enabled operators to deliver better customer outcomes” via greater loyalty, reduced churn (down more than 30%), higher satisfaction scores (an average increase in NPS of +18.5%) and “better value through faster broadband speeds and greater mobile data allowances.” Not to mention the greater capex of a combined operator and lower operating costs.

NOTE: Net Promoter Scores (NPS) measure the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others (on a scale of -100 to 100).

Assembly-Research_convergence_benefits_FMC

Matthew Howett, Principal Analyst & Founder of Assembly, said:

“When faced with the data and evidence from other markets, it’s clear that, through fixed-mobile convergence, consumers see more attractive propositions, greater value and access to the best of fixed and mobile networks. The evolution of these offerings over time has seen the majority of consumers in the countries analysed decide to opt for a converged product. The resulting improvements seen in network quality and build have also led some of these very countries to be considered benchmarks when it comes to policies for encouraging the deployment of gigabit capable networks.”

Overall, it seems fairly clear to us that the main audience for this study is intended to be the UK’s competition authority. Meanwhile, we would have much preferred to see a wider and more independently commissioned study into both the pros and cons of convergence. As it stands Assembly’s study seems to be laser focused on extolling only the virtues of FMC.

For example, while consumers may find better value and more competitive pricing in converged packages, there can sometimes also be complicated impacts on the wholesale side and it may be more complex for consumers to switch away from a heavily converged (bundled) package (this is partly why you get lower churn). Likewise, as converged networks become more closely integrated then any problems can affect a wider customer base.

Nevertheless, convergence does make absolute sense for an operator like Virgin Media, particularly as their arch rival BT (Openreach) has already done the same with EE. As such the UK has not yet seen a truly competitive converged offering for consumers, which will only come about if Virgin and O2 are afforded the same opportunity to compete against BT.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Avatar NGA for all says:

    Convergence make sense for the consumer. High capacity access to national data transport infrastructure whether fixed, public wifi, or cellular should be the norm. You can increasingly make do without cellular roaming functions if you have to.

    The UK market definitions are years out of date. UK spectrum policy needs to accommodate the ambitions of City Fibre and all the others rather than create conditions to marginalise their retail offerings.

    1. Avatar buggerlugz says:

      UK spectrum policy needs widening massively. Currently its not fit for purpose

  2. Avatar dave says:

    Sponsor of study gets desired result, shocking news at 10!

    1. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      Beat me to it. It was so obviously a marketing piece because Virgin and O2 want to merge.

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